User:Jahsonic/AHE/Renaissance/The caveman looks at a print
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Opening Image, detail of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili [image]
Whilst the medieval caveman is addressed from the walls of churches, in the Renaissance, he buys prints from hawkers on the markets of bustling cities. The Renaissance is associated with the emergence of a visual culture fuelled by engravings, allowing anyone with some financial means to amass an erotic collection, his own erotic print room. Since the mid-15th century woodcuts come within the financial reach of the new urban middle class. In the beginning the engravings are original compositions, but soon the technique is used to copy existing paintings and frescoes. The print is the illustrated magazine, the television of its time. What for years could only be described in words, paintings, sculptures, landscapes, frescoed interiors, one can now duplicate mechanically and bring to the eyes of hundreds in vivid depictions, without even having to budge. Titian in Venice and Raphael in Rome begin to collaborate about the same time with master engravers to perpetuate their designs in prints. Flemish and Dutch printers and publishers, such as Philippe Galle (1537-1612) and Hieronymus Cock (1518-1570), develop distribution networks that operate internationally, and they also produce work to order.
But much more interesting than the copies of existing works, are the original engravings. Because engravings belong to the private sphere, and so can be quietly and freely enjoyed without prying busybodies glancing over one's shoulder, the artist is now much freer in depicting erotic scenes. It is unfortunate that most books on the history of erotica neglect prints, for it is self-evident that the old master print allows an artist to go a lot further than in a painting meant for the dining room or bedroom. All in all, the art of painting lends itself much less to erotic expression compared to the master prints. A visit to a print collection of any European museum will yield a very large amount of exciting prints, much greater than the number of paintings and much more explicit.
Admittedly, prints lack colour, because prints are black and white. But what they lack in colour, they make up in audacity. During the Renaissance, some of these prints are by the great masters, and a whole slew of others are by so-called 'Little Masters'. Besides the above I Modi by Marcantonio Raimondi's there are - starting in Italy - the Lascivie [image] [image] (c. 1590-1595) by Agostino Carracci (1557-1602) which once again depict the loves the gods (Satyr Mason), work by Parmigianino (image), Giulio Bonasone (image), Jacopo Caraglio (image), Rosso Fiorentino, Perino del Vaga (image), Cristofano Robetta and Giovanni Battista Palumba.
Many of these prints have been lost after the death of their - of course, usually male - owners. One can imagine the embarrassment of an heir or heiress when confronted with daddy's collection of racy pictures, and the decision to throw the lot on the fire. The print collection of Ferdinand Columbus (1488-1539), son of Christopher Columbus, known as the first and oldest collection, consisted at the time of his death of 3,200 engravings and woodcuts. Proof of how risqué some of these prints still are to contemporary standards, is provided by the fact that the print Woman with Dildo [this print was not in the Dutch edition, but needs to be included here] by Raimondi was not shown at an exhibition of erotic engravings from the Renaissance, held early 2009 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York.
In the North there are the prints of Hans Sebald, who, somewhat clumsily but nevertheless passionately convincing, engraves a number of themes which are popular in the early Renaissance. An early Caritas Romana - the story of an imprisoned father who is sentenced to death by starvation. His hands are cuffed, but his own daughter offers him her breasts so that she keeps him alive in a sacrificial act of daughterly love -, The Night (a reclining nude with bare pudenda) (image) and Old Man Fondling the Breast of a Woman who Steals His Money (image).